Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, but having all climate zones in such a small area, makes it such a unique place. The pacific coast is separated from the Amazon region through the Andes. Both sides, West and East having tropical rainforests with such incredible bio-diversity. In the highlands you find dry valleys, shining green grasslands and Volcanoes with glaciers and snowy peaks such as Chimborazo or Cotopaxi reaching about 6000m.
Ecuador has forty-eight listed volcanoes from which twenty-four are active and four in eruption. Most of them are located in the highlands from South to North.
We met Andres (center) an agricultural-engineer who has a farm in the South of Quito and a passion for mountaineering and photography. We joined him for a few weeks to find out more about farming at high altitudes and the nature surrounding them.
Andres and his flatmate Juan welcomed us to stay in their house surrounded by a huge fruit and vegetable garden to see and learn more about Ecuador and their way of living.
Together they produce their own organic vegetables such as Tomatoes, Zucchini, Kale, Onions, Tamarillo, Egg Plant, Corn, Potatoes and much more. To grow vegetables is only part of Juan´s work, when the vegetables are ready to harvest he uses them for his restaurants and his food truck “Pizza Rondante” to have consistently fresh products and the best quality.
Andres is managing his ninety hectar farm close to Machachi. The climate allows him to grow a lot of plants all year round. The temperatures are mostly staying the same but the weather can change hourly. The farm lays at around 3200m at the foot of Cotopaxi, also one of the reasons why the soil got such an incredible quality for growing crops. For us it was amazing to take part at the daily life on this altitudes where in Europe would be nothing more than snow.
Andres is growing potatoes, quinoa, Oats, Mustard, Canola, Wheat and also has cattle for milk and horses to ride around the farm. He doesn’t like Monsanto and their way of farming and food production at all, that’s why he is just using seeds which come from South America and also supports the seed production of quinoa and other crops. For the future he wants to change his conventional farming into an organic and more eco-friendly business.
The planting and the harvest is mostly done by hand also because the workers are more reliable then machines and will care for the best results for the harvest.
And the little ones have to wait in the meantime.
At the end of the day the tractors take the harvest to the farmhouse for further processing. The potatoes get weighed, checked for diseases and their value calculated. Potatoes grow all Year round and every month they harvest some. Quinoa instead can be harvested only once, maximum twice, a Year and produces some incredible colors when they flourish.
Image by Andres Lopez
After the Volcanic eruption in 2015 the whole region around Cotopaxi was covered with up to 25cm of ash, making it impossible for the plants to breath and putting the cattle in real danger, they had to move all their cows and horses to a safe place. But seen for a long time the ash will supply the soil with lots of minerals.
The time came to bring the cows and horses back to the farm so we helped Andres and his father catch the horses and thoroughly enjoyed seeing them running around on the green grass.
To prevent the foal getting injured we had to get an extra trailer for it, but having the mother on a different trailer didn’t make that any easier.
In the middle of the mountains but just four hours away from the coast it is a must to enjoy the weekend on the beach and spend some good times with friends.
The sunset light creates a new shape every day and a new scene on the pacific coastline.
Thank you so much guys for showing us your life in the country of volcanoes and letting us experience your way of life.
Back in the mountains, Andres showed us some incredible places to see the peaks of Ecuador, enjoying the unique landscapes formed and designed by the greatest powers on Earth.
Antisana I 5753m (left) I Cotopaxi I 5897m (far right)
Iliniza Sur I 5248m
Cayambe I 5796m
Pichincha Highlands I 4794m
Laguna Quilotoa I 3914m
Ecuador is an amazing country with incredibly friendly and warm-hearted people. It is a must to come back and we can`t wait until this happens.
We are now crossing the border to Colombia, the home of our car and the country we always dreamed of.
Chris and Flo
Enjoy the beautiful photography of Andres Lopez: www.chacho-lopez.wix.com/photos
Find out more about the volcanoes of Ecuador: www.igepn.edu.ec